Chemistry

On The China Study

I recently finished reading The China Study – Startling Implications For Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health – by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II.

Below are key insights from the book that I found to be insightful:

After a long career in research and policy making, 1 now understand why Americans are so confused. As a taxpayer who foots the bill for research and health policy in America, you deserve to know that many of the common notions you have been told about food, health and disease are wrong.

These findings demonstrate that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness. An understanding of this scientific evidence is not only important for improving health; it also has profound implications for our entire society. We must know why misinformation dominates our society and why we are grossly mistaken in how we investigate diet and disease, how we promote health and how we treat illness.

But just like seeds in the soil, the initial cancer cells will not grow and multiply unless the right conditions are met…Promotion is reversible, depending on whether the early cancer growth is given the right conditions in which to grow. This is where certain dietary factors become so important.

Yes, changing your lifestyle may seem impractical. It may seem impractical to give up meat and high-fat foods, but I wonder how practical it is to be 350 pounds and have Type 2 diabetes at the age of fifteen, like the girl mentioned at the start of this chapter. I wonder how practical it is to have a lifelong condition that can’t be cured by drugs or surgery; a condition that often leads to heart disease, stroke, blindness or amputation; a condition that might require you to inject insulin into your body every day for the rest of your life.

Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts…Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health…There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants…Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed. and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed…Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals…The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis)…Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board…Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.

Perhaps worst of all industry corrupts scientific evidence even when its product has been linked to serious health problems. Our kids are often the most coveted targets of their marketing. The American government has passed legislation preventing cigarette and alcohol companies from marketing their products to children. Why have we ignored food? Even though it is accepted that food plays a major role in many chronic diseases, we allow food industries not only to market directly to children, but also to use our publicly-funded school systems to do it. The long-term burden of our short-sighted indiscretion is incalculable.

In terms of education, medical students and house officers, under the constant tutelage of industry representatives, learn to rely on the drugs and devices more than they probably should [my emphasis]. As the critics of medicine so often charge, young physicians learn that for every problem, there is a pill [my emphasis] (and a drug company representative to explain it). They also become accustomed to receiving gifts and favors from an industry that uses these courtesies to influence their continuing education. The academic medical centers, in allowing themselves to become research outposts for industry, contribute to the overemphasis on drugs and devices.”

On a closing note:

History can repeat itself. This time, however, instead of the message being forgotten and confined to library stacks, I believe that the world is finally ready to accept it. More than that, I believe the world is finally ready to change. We have reached a point in our history where our bad habits can no longer be tolerated. We, as a society, are on the edge of a great precipice we can fall to sickness, poverty and degradation, or we can embrace health, longevity and bounty. And all it takes is the courage to change. How will our grandchildren find themselves in 100 years? Only time will tell, but I hope that the history we are witnessing and the future that lies ahead will be to the benefit of us all.

A highly recommended read in the area of nutrition.

On The Demon Under The Microscope

I recently finished reading The Demon Under The Microscope by Thomas Hager. As the author summarizes this book: “Once a bacterial disease took hold in the body, humans in 1931 were as much the prey of the invisible killers as they had been since the beginning of history. All that was about to change…Sulfa happened. It started in the mid-1930s, with a series of findings made in Germany and France, discoveries that were at the time hailed as “the miracle of miracles” in modern medicine, advances that secured humans their first effective way to stop bacterial infections once they started. The work then spread to Great Britain and the United States, where tests of the still-experimental drug on humans. including the son of the president of the United States, confirmed its power.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found to be particularly insightful:

Nothing like it had been seen before. IG Farben was on the day of its birth the largest corporation in Germany, the largest business in Europe, the largest and most powerful chemical company in the world. It was also the world s third-largest business of any sort measured by numbers of employees, bested in the mid-1920s only by U.S. Steel and General Motors. As Duisberg hoped, the IG Farben structure led to coordinated research and rationalized production; member firms began complementing one another’s efforts rather than duplicating them; resources were freed to invest in the next big products to generate the next big profits. At Bayer those products would include a number of new medicines.

Childbed fever was rampant in the wards attended by students. Something appeared to be passing the infection from the dead women to the students and physicians, then from them to women in the delivery room. Semmelweis thought it likely, given the pattern, that the student physicians were carrying something, some bits of infectious material, perhaps scraps of tissue from the autopsies, from the autopsy area to the wards. These were the days before Lister and before Pasteur had shown that bacteria could cause disease. Hand washing was minimal, if it was done at all. The students and medical staff wore no gloves. All the doctors, young and old, generally wore the same clothes for days. Semmelweis came to believe that the infectious material was likely carried on the hands. To test the idea, he instructed all of his students to start washing their hands thoroughly in chloride of lime after any autopsy and before touching any patient. Then he tracked the results. As he had hoped, deaths among women treated by his students fell dramatically. Semmelweis excitedly told everyone about his findings, and soon his hand-washing practices were adopted throughout the Vienna Lying-in Hospital. Within a few years, the death rate in Division 1 fell to match that in Division 2. The pregnant women of Vienna stopped begging to be given a midwife.

But, amn7inolv the second molecule, Kl-821—sulfanilamide linked not to an azo frame but instead to a relatively simple carbon-and-nitrogen string—worked, and worked extremely well. It stopped Strep infections in both mice and rabbits. When the first test results came in in mid-April, Domagk immediately ordered retests in strep-infected rabbits and got even better results.

The grand dream of an effective antibacterial chemical—history’s first—was about to be realized. Despite all the worries, skepticism, and disbelief, it appeared that Prontosil really cured human disease. A nontoxic internal disinfectant exquisitely targeted to bacteria, Ehrlich’s long-sought Zauherkugeln, had finally been found. Panacea, after thousands of years of failed attempts, had finally awakened.

By 1938, it was estimated that sulfa was saving the lives of ten thousand new mothers each year in Britain and the United States alone.

Science still seemed to offer reason for optimism. By the time Sir Henry accepted his Nobel medal in Stockholm, however. Hitler had marched troops into the demilitarized Rhineland, Japan and Italy had allied with Germany—and the French, just four years after the discovery of Prontosil, were about to make the new German miracle drug worthless.

Most important, however, was the discovery that the world’s most effective antibacterial medicine was also among the simplest ever found. Everyone had been searching through all these complicated dyes, tinkering around the edges, while the real power was in a colorless add-on. As Bovet later put it, the Germans’ complicated red car had a simple white engine.

Like all great discoveries, sulfa engendered a host of unexpected benefits. During the postwar period, Prontosil and its chemical oirspring gave birth not just to antibiotics but to other new approaches to disease. Domagk’s work, as noted, led to the semithiocarbazones for treating tuberculosis. That was just the beginning. When one doctor observed that patients taking sulfa urinated more often than others, subsequent research led to trying sulfa variants as a diuretic, a medicine used to increase urination and thus to alter the fluid balance in the body Eventually it led to the thiazide drugs, an important early family of diuretics used to treat hypertension. Understanding sulfas mode of action—its ability to act as an “antimetabolite” that substituted for a needed foodstuff, starving the target microorganism to death—led to research into other antimetabolites; the most important result was a family of new anticancer drugs. Another line of inquiry that started with sulfa led to antileprosy medications, another to a treatment for diabetes, another to a new line of antimalarials. In all these cases, the starting point was sulfa, but the end point was new kinds of medicine.

In closing:

Every great drug discovery (and every modem technological advance) carries with it, like the blood of the Gorgon mentioned in the epigraph that begins this b0ok, two opposing qualities: one positive, healing, and helpful; one negative, often unintended, sometimes deadly The ancient Greeks understood that. We must remember it, too.

A highly recommended read in the area of medicine.

On It Starts With Food

I recently finished reading It Starts with Food – Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life In Unexpected Way by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig. This book was recommended to me by my fitness instructor.

Below are key excerpts from this book, that I found particularly insightful:

The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.

The food that we eat should: 1) Promote a healthy psychological response. 2) Promote a healthy hormonal response. 3) Support a healthy gut. 4) Support immune function and minimize inflammation.

In nature, pleasure and reward signals led us to vital nutrition.

*The food choices you make should promote a healthy psychological response. *Sweet, fatty, and salty tastes send pleasure and reward signals to the brain. In nature, these signals were designed to lead us to valuable nutrition and survival. *Today, these flavor sensations are unnaturally concentrated in food, which is simultaneously stripped of valuable nutrition. *This creates food-with-no-brakes- supernormally stimulating, carbohydrates-dense, nutrient-poor foods with all the pleasure and reward signals to keep us overeating, but none of the satiety signals to tell us to stop. *These foods rewire pleasure, reward, and emotion pathways in the brain, promoting hard-to-resist cravings and automatic consumption. Stress and inadequate sleep only reinforce these patterns. *Reconnecting delicious, rewarding food with the nutrition and satiety that nature intended is the key to changing these habits.

*The food choices you make should promote a healthy hormonal response in the body. *Chronic “overcarbsumption” of food-with-no-brakes leads to reliance on sugar for fuel, an accumulation of body fat, triglyceride buildup in the liver, and an excess of glucose and triglycerides in the bloodstream. *Excess glucose and triglycerides in the blood stream promote leptin resistance in the brain. *Leptin resistance means your brain doesn’t hear the leptin message and thinks you’re still too lean. This promotes further overconsumption and the down-regulation of your metabolism (in part via your thyroid). *Leptin resistance promotes insulin resistance, in which cells are no longer sensitive to insulin’s message to store. Forcing nutrients into cells creates damage and inflammation and leads to chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels. *Chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels are contributing factors to type 2 diabetes and a number of other lifestyle-related diseases and conditions. *Glucagon can help you stabilize blood sugar and use fat for fuel, but only when insulin levels aren’t elevated. *Cortisol is a stress hormone. Periods of fasting or excessive caloric restriction, along with lack of adequate sleep or too much stress, may contribute to chronically elevated cortisol levels. *Chronically elevated cortisol levels increase blood sugar, which may contribute to insulin resistance and promotes weight gain in the abdominal region, a component of metabolic syndrome.

Chronically high levels of insulin are harmful, so managing insulin levels is critical for long-term health.

*The food you eat should foster a healthy gut and digestive system. *Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is critically important to your health. *Certain foods can unbalance your healthy gut bacteria and/or promote intestinal permeability, compromising gut integrity. *Compromised gut integrity and bacterial imbalance lead to digestive distress and can promote chronic disease, hypersensitivities, and autoimmune conditions in the body. *Most of your immune system is located in your gut, which means our third and fourth Good Food standards are very closely linked.

*The food you eat should promote a balanced immune system and minimize chronic systemic inflammation. *Chronic systemic inflammation is full-body (systemic), long-term (chronic) up-regulation of your immune system activity. *Your immune system has two major functions – defense against threats and low-level repair and maintenance. *Certain foods sneak past your gut’s defense system and create immune chaos. *If certain factors, like your food choices, are overloading your immune system, it’s going to be less effective at doing its main jobs, and something is going to be left undone or done poorly. *Chronic systemic inflammation is a central risk factor for a number of lifestyle-related diseases and conditions and is at the heart of metabolic syndrome. *Silent inflammation isn’t so silent if you know what to listen for. *Managing the inflammatory status of your body profoundly impacts your quality of life.

Eating whole, unprocessed foods with a rich complement of fat and other nutrients is not unhealthy. Overeating refined carbohydrates is.

A highly recommended read in the areas of health and nutrition.

On Madame Curie

I recently finished reading Madame Curie – A Biography by Eve Curie – translated by Vincent Sheen. While I had some exposure to Madam Curie from my studies, this book further elevated my admiration for her not just as a scientist but as a visionary and a humanitarian at large.

Below are selected highlights from this masterpiece:

On the geopolitical environment Marie was born into:

Since then everything had been done to enforce the obedience of a Poland that refused to die…But in the other camp resistance was quick to organize. Disastrous experience had proved to the Poles that they had no chance of reconquering their liberty by force, at least for the moment. Their task was, therefore, to wait—and to thwart the dangers of those who wait, cowardice and discouragement. The battle, therefore, had changed ground. Its heroes were no longer those warriors armed with scythes who charged the Cossacks and died saying (like the celebrated Louis Narbutt): “What happiness to die for my country!” The new heroes were the intellectuals, the artists, priests, schoolteachers—those upon whom the mind of the new generation depended. Their courage consisted in forcing themselves to be hypocrites, and in supporting any humiliation rather than lose the places in which the Tsar still tolerated them—and from which they could secretly influence Polish youth, guide their compatriots.

On the early tragedies in her life:

Deprived of her mother’s tenderness and the protection of her eldest sister, the child grew older, without once complaining, in partial abandonment. She was proud but she was not resigned. And when she knelt in the Catholic church where she was used to going with her mother, she experienced the secret stir of revolt within her. She no longer invoked with the same love that God who had unjustly inflicted such terrible blows, who had slain what was gay or fanciful or sweet around her.

On her husband, Pierre:

Thus his (Pierre) was a strange and almost incredible adventure, for it mixed the essential aspiration of his mind into the movement of his heart. He felt himself drawn toward Marie by an impulse of love and at the same time by the highest necessity. He was even ready to sacrifice what people call happiness to another happiness known to him alone. He made Marie a proposal which at first seems fantastic, which might pass for a ruse or an approach, but which was characteristic of his nature. If Marie had no love for him, he asked, could she resolve upon a purely friendly arrangement at least, and work with him “in an apartment in the Rue Mouffetard, with windows giving on a garden, an apartment which could be divided into two independent parts?”

On their work together:

Let this certainty suffice for our curiosity and admiration. Let us not attempt to separate these creatures full of love, whose handwriting alternates and combines in the working notebooks covered with formulae, these creatures who were to sign nearly all their scientific publications together. They were to write “We found” and “We observed”; and when they were constrained by fact to distinguish between their parts, they were to employ this moving locution…”one of us”…

On celebrity aversion and humility:

The aversion which celebrity inspired in the Curies had still Other sources besides their passion for work or their fright at the loss of time. With Pierre, who was naturally detached, the attack of popularity encountered the resistance of principles he had always held. He hated hierarchies and classifications. He found it absurd that there should be “firsts” in a class, and the decorations which grown persons coveted seemed to him as superfluous as the medals awarded children in school. This attitude, which had made him refuse the Legion of Honor, was equally his in the realm of science. He was devoid of all spirit of competition, and in the “race for discoveries” he was able to endure being beaten by his colleagues without annoyance. “What difference does it make if I didn’t publish such-and-such a work,” he had the habit of saying, “since somebody else has published it ? This almost inhuman indifference had had a deep influence on Marie. But when she fled before the evidences of admiration it was not in order to imitate her husband and not to obey him. The war against fame was not a principle with her: it was an instinct. An irresistible timidity, a painful shrinking congealed her as soon as curious glances were fastened upon her, and even provoked disturbances which brought on dizziness and physical discomfort.

On opening the Insitut du Radium and advancing science:

This victory came upon its heroine when she was no longer either young or strong, and when she had lost her happiness. What did it matter, since she was surrounded by fresh forces. since enthusiastic scientists were at hand to aid her in the struggle? No, it was not too late. The glaziers were singing and whistling on every floor of the little white building. Above the entrance could already be read these words, cut into the stone: Institut du Radium, Pavillon Curie. Before these sturdy walls and this exalting inscription Marie evoked the words of Pasteur: If conquests useful to humanity touch your heart, if you stand amazed before the surprising effects of electric telegraphy, the daguerreotype, anesthesia and so many other admirable discoveries: if you are jealous of the part your country can claim in the further flowering of these wonders—take an interest, I urge upon you, in those holy dwellings to which the expressive name of laboratories is given. Ask that they be multiplied and adorned. They are the temples of the future, of wealth and well-being. It is there that humanity grows bigger, strengthens and betters itself. It learns there to read in the works of nature, works of progress and universal harmony, whereas its own works are too often those of barbarity, fanaticism and destruction.

On true scientific research:

A large number of my friends affirm, not without valid reasons, that if Pierre Curie and I had guaranteed our rights, we should have acquired the financial means necessary to the creation of a satisfactory radium institute, without encountering the obstacles which were a handicap to both of us, and which are still a handicap for me. Nevertheless, I am still convinced that we were right. Humanity certainly needs practical men, who get the most out of their work, and, without forgetting the general good, safeguard their own interests. But humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without the slightest doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.

On her final moments:

Her last moments revealed the strength, the terrible resistance, of a creature whose fragility was only apparent, of her robust heart, trapped in a body from which all heat was departing, which continued to beat tirelessly, implacably…The young scientists sobbed before the inert apparatus at the Radium Institute. Georges Fournier, one of Marie’s favorite Students, wrote: “We have lost everything.”

A must read!